Deke’s Techniques 018: Creating a 3D Pie Chart

As a rule, business graphics are rarely regarded as the sexiest of design projects. But just about every creative professional has to create one in his or her career. So when it comes your turn, why not make that graphic as gorgeous as it can possible be? Which is why, this week, I show you how to create a 3D pie chart so colorful and lustrous you’ll want to reach out and touch it.

I start off in Adobe Illustrator, which lets you convert a small spreadsheet of data into a graph. Then I copy the graph, paste it into Photoshop as a shape layer, and extrude the shape layer into 3D space using CS5 Extended’s Repoussé. In the end, I convert the drab gray chart on the left into the partially rendered 3D artwork on right.

Pie chart from Illustrator to Photoshop CS5 Extended

In case you’re thinking, “Uh, how do you tell one slice from another when they’re all orange?” this is just the first step. Next week, we’ll separate the pie slices (a process known as “splitting the meshes”) and assign each slice a different color. I’ll also introduce you to the Ground Plane Shadow Catcher, which permits the chart to cast a true ray-traced shadow onto the stage.

Oh, and by sheer and unrelated coincidence, today is the birthday of Colleen Wheeler, my Martini Hour ex-cohost and the person who writes up Deke’s Techniques at Colleen tells me she prefers pies over cakes. Which provides me with an excuse to show you the final chart from next week’s video with a candle stuck in it. Cheers, Colleen!

Birthday pie chart for Colleen Wheeler

Next entry:Ordinary Color to Dramatic Black & White and Beyond

Previous entry:Howard Stern Begins Work on a Photoshop Course


  • Happy belated

    birthday, Colleen.

  • Video not working

    Hi!  I was really enjoying this video but it keeps stopping at the 7:30 mark.  I tried watching it here, on YouTube, using both Safari, Firefox and even on my phone but it always stops in the same place.  Is there a way to watch the whole thing?

Share your feedback, work, homages, questions, wisecracks, advice, critiques, riffs, derision (within reason), frustrations, and love of all things graphical. Log in (or register) to lend your voice.